Nilpena fossil fields holding fossils of Earth's earliest known animals © Jason Irving / South Australian Department of the Environment and Water


Nilpena fossil fields

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  • Tony Jupp
    Associate Director of Communications

The Nature Conservancy is proud to announce the planned acquisition and protection of Nilpena West – an internationally significant fossil site and area of high conservation value in outback South Australia.

“The protection of this 60,000 hectare former pastoral property marks a great day for conservation in South Australia,” said Dr James Fitzsimons, Director of Conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Australia, speaking from the opening of the 2019 Private Land Conservation Conference in Adelaide this evening. “The property contains significant biodiversity values including two threatened ecological communities and a number of threatened species. Most critically, the property also covers extremely important sites that contain the oldest fossilised animals on Earth.”

South Australian Environment and Water Minister David Speirs said Nilpena West will soon be added to the South Australian public protected area estate and managed by the Department for Environment and Water.

“Its inclusion in the conservation estate will link the Ediacara Conservation Park to the Lake Torrens National Park and will support our nomination for the listing of areas of the Flinders Ranges as a World Heritage Site.”  

one the the Earth's first animals, at Nilpena
Dickinsonia fossil one the the Earth's first animals, at Nilpena © Jason Irving / South Australian Department of the Environment and Water

Nilpena West, 600 kilometres north of Adelaide, is currently part of Nilpena Pastoral Station.  The property includes the Ediacara Fossil Site – Nilpena, listed on the National Heritage List. Nilpena is a research site of international significance with part funding from NASA. It is unique in that palaeontologists have been able to excavate a series of 40 fossiliferous beds that preserve snapshots of the seafloor as animal life first unfolded around 550 million years ago. There is no other place on Earth where this has occurred for fossils of any age.

What is even more extraordinary is that the Nilpena fossil beds preserve marine communities with scores of species. They include evidence of the Earth’s first animals, and the earliest movement and sexual reproduction.

Shearers’ quarters, a blacksmith’s shop and a woolshed on the property will be developed as research and visitor facilities, and an immersive interpretive centre.

The purchase of the property and its transfer to the South Australian Government is being facilitated by The Nature Conservancy with funding provided by an anonymous donor. 

January 2020 update: the planned acquisition of Nilpena West has now occurred thanks in part to the generous funding provided to The Nature Conservancy by the Wyss Campaign for Nature. The property is now permanently protected and managed for conservation by the South Australian Government. It will be added to the Ediacara Conservation Park later this year. 

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organisation dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we focus on getting things done efficiently and with the greatest positive impact for conservation. We’re a trusted organisation working in more than 70 countries and territories around the world on innovative solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. To learn more about The Nature Conservancy in Australia, follow us on Facebook.